Review: Occurrence at Mills Creek (2020)

Occurrence at Mills Creek Poster

Last August I reviewed the twenty-minute short Occurrence at Mills Creek from writer/director Don Swanson (A Wish for Giants, What Was Lost). Now, with help in the writing department from cast members Betsy Lynn George, Joe Fishel, and Ava Psoras it’s been expanded to feature-length. Expanding a short can be a risky undertaking. How well did it work this time?

Clara (Ava Psoras) has just lost her mother to illness. Since her dad Victor (Joe Fishel, Potential Inertia) left years ago it falls on her to take care of her sister Cassandra (Alexa Mechling, Hotel Horror). However, a disagreement between the two leads to Cassandra’s accidental death.

Occurrence at Mills Creek 1

As if this doesn’t leave her with more than enough issues to keep her therapist occupied, Victor dies of some disease as well. Seeing ghosts and doubting her sanity, Clara must face up to her family’s dark history.

Occurrence at Mills Creek uses the events of the short as its starting point and goes on from there. The film initially focuses more on Clara’s mental state. It has us wondering if she’s cracking under the strain of these events. An idea her sessions with Dr. Vicki (Dana Langshaw, Grace Langshaw) actually seem to reinforce.

Occurrence at Mills Creek 2

Unlike the ghosts in most recent films, the ones in Occurrence at Mills Creek aren’t aggressive. They have an air of menace to them, but they’re not the spirits of Grave Encounters or Insidious. This feels more like a film from a much earlier era with its restrained tone and emphasis on the main character’s mental state. The casting of MaLynda Parker (Season of the Witch, The Crazies) in the small but pivotal role of Clara’s Aunt Estelle adds to that feeling.

The result is a film that’s not scary in the sense that viewers will expect. Those who are familiar with how Swanson handled Bigfoot in A Wish for Giants maybe won’t be surprised. But general audiences expecting jump scares and spirits that act like demons will be disappointed.

Occurrence-at-Mills-Creek-1

I’m not saying Occurrence at Mills Creek is dull, it held my attention nicely. And the final act does deliver scares. It’s not elevated horror either. I would actually refer to it as a supernatural film than a horror film. For much of the time, the ghosts are a plot element, but not a source of scares. It’s a more subtle and complex approach than most ghost stories take. It will, however, reward those who appreciate that kind of storytelling.

Occurrence at Mills Creek is currently being submitted to festivals. You can check the film’s website and Facebook page for announcements of where it will be screening.

Our Score

Jim Morazzini

Movie buff, gym rat and crazy cat guy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: